Leave it to a Florida newspaper columnist to publicize a story about Harlem that should have been treated to a week-long series by the New York Times. Bill Maxwell of the St. Petersburg Times reports on “cram schools” in Harlem—that’s close to New York, isn’t it?--that are changing the lives of students through old-fashioned notions of what it takes to get good grades and, more importantly, instill a love of learning in youth.
“Black Families Open Up, Cram Education In” (Oct. 22), Maxwell reports that his cousin, despite being a single mom raising two boys in tough circumstances, is devoting hard-earned dollars to provide an education for her boys that is somehow not being provided by the tax-dollar-supported local school. Here’s an excerpt:
“One tangible payoff is the improvement of the boys’ grades. They went from earning C’s and the occasional B to making all A’s and B’s. The grades are important, but Shirley says she cares more about the boys’ new love of learning: ‘Up here in Harlem, they don’t have a lot of role models their own age. A lot of these kids don’t open a book after they get off the subway. My kids just don’t fit in because they love to study. That makes me feel bad.’
“‘The cram school is different. Those Korean kids study very hard. My boys are the only blacks in the school, but they fit in. I mean, it’s normal to work hard. Nobody says they’re acting white. When they see all these other kids studying, my kids don’t feel weird. The peer pressure is positive. Studying has become a habit--second nature.’”
“The boys’ new love of learning”? It’s “normal to work hard”? “Studying has become a habit”? Who knew?! When relatives told her she was pushing her kids too hard, she told them to get lost. I lift my No Left Turns mug to the "cram schools" of New York, and say, "Leave no child behind."